The U.S. Department of Transportation on Monday notified the public of the fifth round of funding availability for the popular TIGER grant program
, which is aimed at multi-modal transportation projects that have a high benefit-cost ratio and don't normally get funded through traditional highway aid to states.
There is $474 million available for the next round, with applications due by June 3. Decisions are expected by late summer or early fall, according to DOT officials.
The DOT said it will give priority to projects that are ready to proceed quickly because the Appropriations Act that funds TIGER requires that funds be obligated by Oct. 1, 2014.
The Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) program is highly competitive, with demanding requirements that applicants quantify how a project will increase safety, reduce congestion, reduce emissions, create jobs and spur economic development, or fix failing infrastructure. Projects that provide benefits to the nation, a region, or metropolitan area are weighted more heavily during the selection process, as are ones sponsored by multiple partners that contribute their own money. The discretionary character of the program enables projects that cross jurisdictions to win awards. Freight-related projects, including for ports, have captured almost one-third of the $3.13 billion awarded so far.
The program gets high marks from many transportation advocates for attempting to make investment decisions in part based on merit, although Republican critics question whether the program is simply a form of "executive earmarking" for pet projects.
To date DOT has given grants of various sizes to 218 projects, but there have been more than 4,050 applications seeking more than $105.2 billion.
There is a $120 million set-aside for projects in rural areas. Awards in urban areas may range from $10 million to $200 million, although awards have become smaller as appropriated funding has declined from the $1.5 billion available in TIGER I in 2009. - Eric Kulisch